For the first time in a while, Nickelodeon can say that its ratings are recovering—the kids' network is back up 5 percent year-over-year in its key demo after a disastrous free-fall that lasted through most of 2011 and 2012 (the network was down 22 percent in kids 6-11 year-over-year for the whole of 2012). February has seen the Nick dust itself off—it's up 5 percent in kids 2-11 and off only 1 percent in kids 6-11— and now is rolling out a big slate of new programming as its parent company fights to keep it on the air in Cablevision households.
Jim Perry, head of ad sales at Nick, said that the kids' network was reaching out to new categories—some new to the network, others new to the kids' marketplace entirely. There is, Perry said, more than one hardware developer working on a tablet PC for kids, and both Sony and Microsoft have new consoles ready to ship this year. "We do see the move category coming back in 13-14," Perry said. "We saw a little bit of a pullback in 12-13, and it's coming back in a big way." The network is also getting nibbles from QSRs that cut back at the network during the decline.
Asked if he had any worries about the current fears for the economy and the ongoing battle between the president and Congress to agree on taxes and spending, Perry said he was encouraged by activity in the scatter market and felt that "we've got a stronger ad marketplace than we've had in the past." But yes, "of course we hope the economy stays on track and continues to improve." The rebound in the toy market will be one of the first things to go if the economy worsens.
Partnership was the word of the day at Nick's programming division; the company gave the greenlight to 26 half-hours of Ubisoft's Rabbids, based on the company's Rayman video game series, as well as the same number of episodes for Monsters vs. Aliens, yet another co-production with DreamWorks Animation (which also does Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness for the network and also has programming deals with Cartoon Network and Netflix). The network's animated shorts program continues to bear fruit for Nick—its other major animated offering will be Breadwinners, from Gary DiRaffaele. The net's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon will get a third season as the Michael Bay-produced movie edges closer to its new 2014 release date.
Nick's live-action slate is six items strong—three family comedies, one with a Two and a Half Men vibe (Wendell & Vinnie), one with ghosts (The Haunted Hathaways), and one with superheroes (The Thundermans). The network will also air a stripped live comedy starting in the spring called Nick Studio 10, which will migrate on-air from the recently launched Nick smartphone/tablet app.